TOKYO, Japan – Hino Canada saw its sales surge about 40% in 2004, while back home in Japan Hino has maintained its position as the medium-duty market share leader.
That marked the 31st consecutive year that Hino had held on to the lead of Japan’s medium-duty market segment. While it hasn’t yet reached that position here in Canada, it’s closing in on its rivals and expects to continue making headway as customers embrace the company’s switch to a conventional-style design.
Hino reached its highest market share ever in the Canadian medium-duty segment – roughly 16% in 2004. However, the manufacturer has yet to surpass 1% of the medium-duty market in the U.S.
Yoshihide Maeda, senior executive officer, product strategy with Hino Motors, says the brand has enjoyed more success in Canada because Canadian customers have traditionally been more open to Hino’s COE design than U.S. buyers.
Now that the company has made the switch to a conventional design, he expects the U.S. market to pick up. He also attributes Hino’s success in Canada to a strong dealer network.
As Hino continues to broaden its product range in North America, it has set ambitious sales targets which include doubling sales on this side of the pond within two years. Hino sold just under 5,000 units in North America in 2004, but the company says that should reach 10,000 by 2006.
The company shifted production of its medium-duty conventionals to Long Beach, Calif., and by the end of 2004 all North American trucks were being built there.
While the cost of Hino trucks won’t likely vary as a result of the change of production facilities, Maeda said Hino aims to deliver continuously decreased life-cycle costs including improved fuel mileage – so customers can expect to get more bang for their buck.
Another way Hino intends to increase its appeal to North American customers is to continue offering new options and enhancements. A recent example is air ride suspensions, which are a new option for Hino customers in Canada.
Air ride suspensions have been available in Japan for more than 10 years now, where they have become standard on Hino’s domestic heavy duty trucks, and all but a standard spec’ on the company’s medium-duty offerings. Hino has also introduced a front air ride suspension in the Japanese market.